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Nurses Mentor Baltimore Youth from City Streets to Career Path

Posted: 8/11/2010

In the tough neighborhoods of East Baltimore, teenagers are discovering that caring can be a career.  More than 175 local middle and high schoolers are now imagining a future as a nurse, thanks to the encouragement and mentorship of Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing (JHUSON) faculty and students.

The outreach to local teenagers at Paul Laurence Dunbar Middle and High Schools is part of a nationwide initiative to increase diversity in the nursing workforce.  The Leadership, Excellence, Achievement, Diversity, and Success (LEADS) program, funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), finances scholarships for nursing students from disadvantaged backgrounds or underrepresented groups who are entering the JHUSON traditional baccalaureate programand supports the Hopkins nursing programs at Dunbar.

At Dunbar Middle School, Hopkins nursing students are providing fun and entertaining health education, teaching for an entire class period at a time.  Topics range from how aerobic activity benefits the heart to use of positive and negative communication techniques.

"The nursing school students have been amazing in connecting with the middle schoolers," says assistant professor Jodi Shaefer, PhD, RN, who leads the efforts at Dunbar Middle.  "They were able to design some very creative teaching approaches."

With hands-on activities like taking pulses, reading the nutritional label on a box of Rice Krispies, and listening to their hearts through stethoscopes, the middle schoolers are learning a lot from these Hopkins student nurses.  And at every opportunity, says Shaefer, "the nursing students talk about why they went into nursing.  The middle schoolers are able to look at what nurses do, and see who is becoming a nurse these days.  It is a really diverse population!  It helps them consider nursing as a career option." 

At Dunbar High School, associate professor Joan Kub, PhD, APHN, BC, and a team of nursing students and practicing nurses visited 10 health education classes over the course of the year to talk about working in the nursing profession. 

"The high school students really enjoy it, and they ask great questions," says Kub.  "Some of them [mistakenly] think that a nursing assistant or LPN is the same as a professional nurse.  Some don't know its a four-year degree.   And they're always amazed by the salary nurses can earn."

In the spring, Kub and nursing student Hannah Paulsen '11 visited Dunbar again, this time during the lunch break.  "Students who had a really strong interest in nursing came up to us to learn more," says Kub, who also sits on the Dunbar-Hopkins Health Partnership Executive Board.
Nineteen of the high schoolers eventually visited the nursing school, spending hours in the simulation laboratory.  In the upcoming school year, they will be invited back for lunch-and-learn sessions and one-on-one discussions with Hopkins nurses. 

"I really think weve identified a few students who are truly interested in nursing," said Kub.  "It's wonderful to hear them say 'I want to be a nurse.'"

To learn more about the LEADS program or the Dunbar initiative at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, contact LEADS project director and associate professor Linda Rose, PhD, RN, at lrose2@son.jhmi.edu or 410-614-4544.